Ben Finney, a founder and first president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society
The son of a United States Navy pilot, Ben Finney grew up in San Diego, California. He earned his B.A. in history, economics and anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1955. In 1958, after serving in the U.S. Navy and working in the steel and aerospace industries, he went to Hawaii, where he earned his M.A. in anthropology at the University of Hawaii in 1959. His master's degree thesis, “Hawaiian Surfing: a Study of Cultural Change”, became the basis for Surfing: The Sport of Hawaiian Kings, a book which Finney co-authored in 1966 with James D. Houston.Finney earned his Ph.D. in anthropology at Harvard University in 1964.
Ben was a pioneer in the reconstruction and sailing of Polynesian voyaging canoes. He first began dreaming about building a canoe and sailing it to Tahiti while studying at the University of Hawai'i in 1958. In the mid-1960s he built Nalehia, a replica of a Hawaiian double canoe that provided the basic information on sailing performance that went into planning Hokule'a's initial voyage to Tahiti.
In 1973 he co-founded the Polynesian Voyaging Society and served as its first president. He sailed aboard Hokule'a during the first voyage to Tahiti in 1976, the 1985 voyage to Aotearoa, and the 1992 voyage to Rarotonga, and also covered the 1995 voyage from the Marquesas to Hawai'i from Hokule'a's escort vessel.
Finney has held faculty appointments at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Australian National University, the University of French Polynesia,and the International Space University.From 1970 through 2000 he was a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his courses included Human Adaptation to the Sea and Human Adaptation to Living in Space. From 1994 through 2003 he was the co-chair of the department of Space and Society at the International Space University.
- 1976: Pacific Navigation and Voyaging. Auckland, New Zealand: The Polynesian Society.
- 1979: Hokulea: The way to Tahiti. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company.
- 1992: From Sea to Space (The Macmillan Brown Lectures 1989). Palmerston North: Massey University.
- 1994: Voyage of Rediscovery: A Cultural Odyssey through Polynesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- 1998: “Traditional Navigation and Nautical Cartography in Oceania” in Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian and Pacific Societies. Chicago: U of Chicago.
- 2003: Sailing in the Wake of the Ancestors: Reviving Polynesian Voyaging. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.
- 2007: Three chapters in Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific.Kerry Howe (Massey University School of Social and Cultural Studies), ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Articles Online at PVS Website
From ”Voyaging into Polynesia's Past” in From Sea to Space
- The Founding of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Building of Hokule'a
- Hawai'i to Tahiti and Return: 1976
- Hawai'i to Tahiti and Return: 1980
- Voyage of Rediscovery: 1985-87